A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for levels 3-7.
Alarm bells blare throughout the Pathfinder Society's Grand Lodge as chaos reigns in one of the vaults below. The PCs must venture into the vaults to put a stop to the mysterious incident. They quickly learn, however, that what has happened in the Grand Lodge is almost certainly not an isolated event. It falls to the PCs to follow this disruption's trail, a mission that puts them on a collision course with mysterious forces that wish to unleash horrors from beyond reality upon Golarion.
Contents in Call of the Copper Gate also contribute directly to the ongoing storyline of the Dark Archive faction.
I had the pleasure of playing this scenario on low tier with a party of 6. I recall we had a level 4 fighter, level 3 monk, two level 4 rogues, a level 4 bard and I myself played a level 3 oracle of the Dark Tapestry. It should come as no surprise that my character was a perfect fit in terms of theme for this Lovecraftian adventure.
One of the first things I want to go over in this review are the encounters. As I mentioned I was playing this on low tier, but I’m also preparing to run it myself for a high tier party. I immediately noticed that high tier is much more challenging and, honestly, more fun. Before commenting on each encounter separately, I’d like to stress out how wonderful it was to have such unique opponents.
The first encounter is likely going to take longer for low tier tables since they have less ways of dealing with the actual problem in that room, or rather, reaching it in a timely fashion. In our case we just spend over an hour getting there without really taking a bunch of damage. There wasn’t a lot happening and while it wasn’t boring, it felt like it took longer that it should have.
The second encounter is, for me, the highlight of the scenario. It’s so delightfully alien with a nice mix of investigation tied to it. I loved it! It's a great take on introducing a unique and interesting NPC. I do wonder about action-economy though. In the end there’s a big difference between 1 versus 4 or 1 versus 6. Thankfully, depending on the interaction with that creature, things might be harder for the players, though I will say that it’s a bit of work to keep track of as a GM. It’s not as much a nightmare as it was for a similar case in 8-04 Wardens of Sulfur Gulch, but I feel like this could have been presented to GMs in a better fashion.
Finally there’s the final combat. Here’s where the high tier is much scarier, and not just in terms of potential damage and shutdown capabilities. On the high tier the spells used actually contribute to the overall atmosphere. It adds something to the scenario other than being just an encounter. The spells the enemy uses on the low tier simply don’t speak to the imagination and actually distract from the overall theme of the scenario. It’s just a case of ‘here, take some generic damage’.
What’s also worth pointing out, is the return of some NPCs of other scenarios. I’ve always wondered what happened to some of them and I was really happy to see them return. My gnome oracle had rescued one of them in a previous scenario and now had a chance to talk to her once more. I really like that Paizo is drawing inspiration from previous scenarios and gives individuals or artefacts a new purpose.
Overall this scenario is a scenario that is best played when it’s dark outside. It’s a Lovecraftian scenario where encounters, investigation and role-play are all combined in a neat little package. If you’re going to play this scenario, and you should, be sure that you have some experience with the Blakros museum. While being a part of the Dark Archives isn’t necessary, it does provide you with a nice boon. Lastly, if you’re going to play it, I recommend doing so on high tier because the creepy atmosphere is more prominent and kept more intact than on low tier, especially during the final encounter.
I just ran this on high tier with a lv 7 swashbuckler, lv 5 psych sorcerer (dark archive), a lv 5 reach fighter, lv 6 arcane sorcerer and lv 7 witch pregen.
The encounters do have alot going on so there is a lot to track but it isn't too daunting. They were challenging espacilly the first do to the party make up. Many of the concerns others had on the prevlence of certain immunties did styme at least on character most were able to contribute for the most part.
With 3 arcane spell casters there was little they could do to the golems.
The second was also diffcult do to confined space but they enjoyed the limited role playing.
The confined creature was difficult to understand but they did well on the questiong. For the comabt there was a lot of character confused durring the encounter and also a lot grappled so it took a fair amount of time to complete
Optional was skip due to time.
Final encounter was tense due to the objective and with Hazard.
The Aucturn atmospher caused the swashbuckler a hard time as she spent alot of time confused and just babling in the mist.It took a whileto get started as the Villan was able to get the majority of the group bottlenecked by his Black Tentacles.
Overall the group found the scenario challenging with many feeling they were in serious in each encounter.
Overall, this is a four star scenario, with a nice change up in the flow, and other decent encounter designs. It fails on three main points however.
First, the initial assumption that the PCs are going to obey Zarta Dralneen, instead of arresting, killing, or snubbing her. This is a half-loved, half-despised character, and should not be giving direct orders to regular Pathfinders.
Second, every single encounter in this scenario is extremely complicated, with pages of material for environmental effects, interactions (before, during, and after combat), and that doesn't even cover the statblocks. The combats would be overly deadly, except most GMs won't be able to keep track of everything going on.
Third, 7 books as resources, including four bestiaries, with every referenced creature *also* referencing additional books. This isn't quite the finale to Serpent's Ire, but it's close, and just too much for a Tier 3-7.
Edit: Post-play feedback - the encounter at the Arcanamirium essentially has no "early bail-out" option/rules, to simply avoid the encounter. It relies on the PCs to do as their told by some random faction head. Even with three members of that faction, they felt it best to just get rid of the creature.
There's definitely some kudos to be handed out for inclusions of some things, but overall it's a mess. A handout to track afflictions, room effects, etc., would have been helpful.
Edit: I wrote this review initially before running the scenario, but it failed to post correctly. Thankfully I managed to recover it (yay Lazarus). After running it, I stand by all the points above. We managed to have a fun night with it, despite *very* close to a TPK, but even the most engaged players were shaking their heads at a lot of the scenario.
I have both run and played this and have enjoyed it very much. It has a nice mix of skill, investigation and combat with interesting, varied and thematic encounters. It does look like it could run long, especially if you play the optional.
I definitely second the suggestion to bring your Dark Archive characters. It has excellent flavour for them.
A long-overdue follow-up and the beginning of something exciting
It seems season 9 will be the season of the cameo. Just about every scenario has had callbacks to earlier scenarios in it, and this one as well. Think back - when did you encounter a copper gate before? (I'm liking this new trend.)
This is a pretty neat Lovecraftian adventure. You meet interesting people and... things... and fight creepy stuff. Opponents were original and reasonably balanced (we had a 5-player APL 5.4 party playing the 4-player high tier, it was dicey but not unfair). There were some pretty tense moments.
I think the adventure caters nicely to a variety of party roles; you'll be happy going into this with a diverse party rather than all-arcane-specialists or all-muscle-lummoxes.
I have just one gripe, and it's something that happens in a lot of occult-themed adventures. Spoilers!
The adventure is quite occult-themed, so it makes sense to bring occult classes. But almost all of the enemies are immune to mind-affecting effects. So most occult classes can only do stuff at the fringes. I was able to be useful with my psychic by having superb knowledges and a spell selection built to deal with enemies immune to 90% of my class, but only barely.
By the way, the Dark Archive part of this adventure was really cool!